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What is the Right to Health?

What is the Right to Health?

Clara, Praha

Answered by A. Haroutyunyan

Health is one of the components of an adequate standard of living. Historically, the protection of public health has been accompanied by legal regulation - health law is as old as law itself. Its development demonstrates that the state of an individual’s health is often determined by factors beyond a person’s medical condition.

The right to health includes access to adequate health care (medical, preventative, and mental), nutrition, sanitation, and to clean water and air. It also includes occupational health consequences such as chronic injuries and diseases resulting from unhealthy and hazardous working conditions. This does not mean that an individual has the right to be healthy since no government can assure a specific state of health. The state of health depends on the person’s genetic makeup, and is molded by environment and health interventions.

The minimum requirements are:

    • Availability - public health care facilities must exist in sufficient quantity. At a minimum, this includes safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, hospitals and clinics, trained medical personnel receiving domestically competitive salaries, and essential drugs;

    • Accessibility - health care must be physically and economically affordable. It must be provided to all on a non-discriminatory basis. Information on how to obtain services must be freely available;

    • Acceptability - all health facilities must be respectful of medical ethics, and they must be culturally appropriate;

    • Quality - health facilities, goods, and services must be scientifically and medically appropriate and of good quality. At a minimum, this requires skilled medical personnel, scientifically approved and unexpired drugs and hospital equipment, safe water and adequate nutrition (within the facility).

As with every human right, the right to health entails the following obligations:

    • Respect - the obligation to respect requires governments to refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of the right to education;

    • Protect - the obligation to protect requires governments to prevent third parties, such as corporations, from interfering in any way with the enjoyment of the right to education;

    • Fulfill - the obligation to fulfill requires governments to adopt the necessary measures to achieve the full realization of the right to education.


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